catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 24 :: 2003.12.19 — 2004.01.01


Discovering faith and art

Ben Keys is a painter and Jewish believer in Christ currently studying at the Art Institute in Chicago. The painting to the right is oil on canvas, entitled, Taco Bell Security Guard.

What role did religion and spirituality play in your life when you were growing up?

None. I didn’t go to church or synagogue and we never talked about God.

What were some major turning points in your understanding and acceptance of Christ?

When a friend told me Jesus was a Jew…I couldn’t believe that a Christian was actually admitting this to me. I felt like decking him. Fortunately, instead I started yelling at him about the anti-Semitism of the Church, and when I was done he told me that I was right. I couldn’t believe that a Christian was agreeing with me. He then told me that I couldn’t judge a philosophy by the abuse of it and I knew he was right. He said that I had to go to the Bible, to what Jesus said, and decide for myself what I believed. So that’s what I did.

Why did you decide to go back to school for painting after beginning a career in marketing?

I got fired from a dot-com, ran out of money and returned home to Northern Virginia. I decided that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the business world for a while, so I started teaching. I picked a paintbrush one day and fell in love. I began painting hard everyday and studying vigorously and a few months later I quit teaching, got a less demanding job and continued painting for two years. I realized at some point that I needed to go back to school if I were going to take art seriously.

What is your vision for the relationship between you as an artist and the larger body of believers? How do you hope to achieve that vision?

I don’t know yet. In general, Christians don’t seem to get my artwork, especially the more abstract stuff, but that’s okay. They’ve given me a ton of support. I think as I paint more figuratively my work is becoming more digestible. Hopefully this will result in more commissioned works, some murals or maybe even a patron or two. I hope to be able to share my art education with the Christian community and non-Christian community through the art I make.

I believe God wants me to keep painting, so that’s what I’m going to keep doing. He works in all circumstances, so I’m going to trust in him to open the doors and make it all work out. I hope to have a website soon and a show in Virginia, which should provide more exposure for my work and possibly stir some interest in the Christian and non-Christian community for postmodern artwork.

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